JUNGLEFOWL is all about doing more with less. The Ypsi-based duo features a pair of married music scholars, each with a deep, diverse musical background. But while Melissa Coppola is self-trained on several instruments, and a bonafide wizard on piano, she’d never played the drums until this band, and she’d only taken lead vocals on a scant few occasions. Now, those elements are roughly two-thirds of JUNGLEFOWL’s essence, along with Stef Carr over on guitar, who, by the way, started out his musical path as a bassist.
“We’re both a lot more comfortable now,” says Carr, looking back on their first two years, “finding out what we can do as just two people, a couple of guitar pedals, and a drum set.”
“I think we appreciate that challenge,” says Coppola. “We spend so much time together already, but it’s gotten to where we really know each other’s playing so well, that in the spur of a moment, if anything happens, we’ve got each other’s back. At this point, we’re more of a well-oiled machine, cuz we’ll know which moves we’re gonna make.”
Listen to the spaces they leave in “Chopping Block.” The spurts of silence between the riffs and cymbals are almost melodic hooks onto themselves. Their sense for dynamics and arrangement within the boundaries of a two-piece garage-rock/blues-pop aesthetic have sharpened considerably. Everything hits and falls into place with such a suddenness, and a gracefulness, even while being gritty, distorted, and even a little raucous.
But there’s a depth of character, of signature kind of energy and presence that you can hear in their playing, be it the varying effects and dynamics of Carr’s guitar, the punch of Coppola’s drums, or the catharsis of her vocal delivery digging in to meet the growl of those guitars.
“It can sometimes be hard for me to hear us as a whole when we’re performing” Coppola says, “because all I can hear is myself, and as a classical performer, you’re trained to constantly analyze yourself and pick apart your mistakes….(but) that’s not rock ‘n’roll! But I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. And, along with that, I’ve started playing drums occasionally for Child Sleep, and Stefan now plays drums in the Sugar Bombs; I think that all contributes to who we are. It feels nice to be growing into our own sound.”
Coppola was raised in classical music; it was pretty much all she listened to until she was 15, when she discovered Something Corporate’s visceral piano-rock combinations, which broke her out of that shell. She went through an extended phase, several years ago, where she was considerably influenced by the evocative/forthright poetic lyrics of Iron & Wine. Carr, meanwhile, was raised on classic late 70’s punk and early 80’s new-wave goth. Inevitably, Carr admits to a formative influence from The White Stripes, but just because this is a guitar/drum duo, doesn’t mean those comparisons should be drawn.
Here’s another song
JUNGLEFOWL are currently finishing up new recordings with Rishi Daftuar (of Tanager), a very collaborative and accommodating engineer who, the duo say, has been able to help encourage their best recorded performances to date. They’re creating more complex arrangements, with multiple guitar parts, extra vocals, and not shying away from utilizing an instrument that might not be able to translate live — the live incarnation will just be its own thing, with expectedly heightened energy.
JUNGLEFOWL’s next show is Friday, July 14th at Grove Studios.
Also on this lineup is White Bee and Five Pound Snap from Detroit, plus Ann Arbor duo Beach Daisy.